Whimsy for Today

Becky Kueker

I absolutely love giving presents. I look all year for special gifts that really suit the person. Something WOW, not in cost, but in thought.

In early November my friend had a special birthday. She is a widow and I wanted to do something for her she would never expect. My wonderful neighbor Hazel is an awesome knitter and creates remarkable specialty gifts. I asked her to create a pillow, something magical that my friend would adore. Hazel designed a masterpiece of butter soft wool in vibrant colors decorated with butterflies and a unique peace sign patch that only my friend would appreciate. Excitedly, I boxed it up and shipped it out.

Eight days later I was still waiting for the “call.” You know, the one where she says how wonderful the gift is. I checked and rechecked the tracking number. She had received it four days before. No response—nothing.

Day 10 I picked up the phone and dialed. She answered on the first ring.  “Oh hi Becky what a nice surprise, how are things in Tucson?” We chatted for about five minutes before she even mentioned my gift. “I want to tell you Becky I just don’t know what to say about my birthday gift. I assume you thought it would make me happy but in reality I was very sad to receive it because of all the memories it brought back with the butterflies and peace sign. I am putting it in my guest bedroom so I don’t have to see it, it would just make me too sad. I also wanted to let you know that I don’t give gifts anymore so if you are expecting me to reciprocate it is not going to happen!”

I slumped down holding the phone not knowing what to say. Having been privy to this in the past I call her response “gift drama.” I have known her for over 40 years and thought she would be delighted with the pillow. Obviously, my thinking this would be magical for her took a left turn.

We know that stressful times can bring out the best in people but also the worst. It does feel like the Grinch vibes seem to have strengthened this year. I was getting angry and thought seriously how much of this nonsense do I have to listen to? But then the softer side of me kicked in and I thought about all she has been through in the past two years and perhaps my pillow, as well-meaning as it was, touched her loneliness and loss.

Life is about finding ways to help one another, listening, and offering support when needed. So, with a big sigh I said, “Sweetie pour yourself a glass of wine, I will do the same, and let’s talk girl talk that no one in their right mind would ever want to listen to! Time we got our silly on like we used to years ago. You remember the time we were in the sauna at the hotel in St. Louis and someone stole our clothes and we stood at the front desk wrapped in towels with no room key and no identification? You were just hilarious. We have so many memories we have shared. Start talking girlfriend, let the laughter begin!”

After retiring from a career as senior partner in a commercial architectural and interior design firm, Becky Kueker published a memoir on life after retirement, Hiding in My Pajamas, that launched a national speaking career. Her second book, A Classic in Clown Shoes, was published in May 2019. Both books are filled with deep, funny, intimate discussions and poignant stories from women and men who have proven that aging does not have to define you and that laughter changes everything.